Some observations following UF’s 71-66 win over Auburn:
— Besides defense, much of UF’s struggles in the first half against Auburn centered around point guard Scottie Wilbekin forcing his own offense. Wilbekin was 2 of 9 from the field in the first half with just 1 assist, which didn’t include an ill-advised drive to the lane that was blocked by Auburn center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. Once Wilbekin settled down and started working an effective pick-and-roll game with senior center Patric Young in the second half, the Gators started to flourish offensively. But Wilbekin needs to find ways to keep his teammates involved from the opening tip, not the last 20 minutes.
– It would be nice to see senior forward Casey Prather get back to his roots and show a little more awareness and effort on the defensive end of the floor. Prather has flourished as a scorer this season, but in the first half, he let diminutive Auburn freshman guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen shake free for too many open looks from 3-point range in the first half. Shamsid-Deen scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half before Prather, under the threat of a benching by Florida coach Billy Donovan, finally clamped down on him in the second half.
— For as poorly as Florida played at home during some stretches, credit the Gators for finding ways to make clutch shots and clutch free throws to take advantage of some Auburn mistakes in crunch time. With the win, Florida improved to 4-1 in games decided by 5 points or less this season and 11-2 in games decided by single digits. Last season, Florida went 0-6 in games decided by single digits and in the past two seasons, Florida was just 2-9 in games decided by five points or less. UF’s senior leadership has helped in that area, while Donovan has said he’s noticed his team more engaged during time outs down the stretch compared to previous seasons. Donovan is 62-78 in his career at UF in games decided by 5 points or less.